‘Coke Studio @ MTV’ moves away from Bollywood music

Published: July 12, 2011
Popon enjoys his performance. PHOTO: MTV INDIA

Popon enjoys his performance. PHOTO: MTV INDIA

Divya Lewis sings her heart out. PHOTO: MTV INDIA Leslie Lewis listens attentively. PHOTO: MTV INDIA Popon enjoys his performance. PHOTO: MTV INDIA

Despite mounting allegations that “Coke Studio @ MTV” is heavily influenced by Bollywood music, producer Leslie Lewis and his band of musicians managed to produce some tracks with a distinct Indian sound in the latest episodes.

Since most Indians have accepted and developed a taste for Bollywood music, the slightly different arrangements and unique performances in the recent episodes were not widely appreciated in the country. So far, the response from the Indian audience has not been positive and the show’s Pakistani counterpart is still followed more. However, having said that, it will take a couple of seasons to make the Indian audience accustomed to more sophisticated forms of Indian music.

Keeping in mind the way “Coke Studio @ MTV” has evolved in terms of quality instrumentation, it would not be an overstatement to say that in couple of seasons, the show will become the centre of world music fusion. If the team remains unaffected, despite the lack of support from the Indian public, this platform has the potential of bringing a revolution into the long stagnant state of Indian pop and film music.

Chinna Ponnu and Sanjeev Thomas: “Indian Jadoo”

Originally composed as a lively song by Sanjeev Thomas — the lead guitarist for AR Rahman in his studio recordings and live concerts — with the Rainbow Bridge band, “Indian Jadoo” uses lyrics from the classical Bollywood song “Ankhiyan Milaon Kabhi Ankhiyan Churaaon”. Popular folk singer Chinna Ponnu laces the song with Tamilan street folk, giving it a new flavour. This was a smart choice in which Lewis, along with his house band and featured performers repackaged a well known Bollywood dance number in a unique way. The video of the original song comprises Madhuri Dixit dancing around Sanjay Kapoor in a garage, “Coke Studio @ MTV” on the other hand, has dissected the whole song to make it more sophisticated and soothing to listen to.

Kailasa: “Dilruba”

Originally from Kailash Kher’s debut album Kailasa, the song talks about the madness one experiences when he or she falls in love. It reflects the amount of influence legendary singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has on Kher’s music. The use of harmonium and tabla, supported by a catchy bass guitar playing, makes the song unique and powerful. The song, due to its similarity with classical-pop arrangements used in Pakistan, is especially appealing to listeners here.

Papon: “Bihu Naam (Pak Pak)”

A medley of romantic Bihu songs sung usually during the onset of the Assamese New Year and the beginning of a new season, “Bihu Naam (Pak Pak)” takes one on a voyage into seasonal celebrations. Such an elaborately traditional song — famous in the northern parts of Assam — can only come from a place as culturally and musically rich as India. Due to brilliant work on the bass guitar, drums and percussions, the song came out as a successful ensemble piece. Various traditional instruments were used to create the sounds of birds chirping with all the members of the band chanting in order to give it celebratory feel. More of these sort of songs can give “Coke Studio @MTV” the identity that the team is looking for.

Sunidhi Chauhan, Mousam Gogoi and Divya Lewis: “Jhakki Dil”

An original composition by Lewis, “Jhakki Dil” was revisited in “Coke Studio @ MTV” by musicians and featured artists. Although the average Pakistani audience might classify it as a typical Bollywood number, the song is still a commendable effort due to its musical arrangement.

The melody of the song is foot-tapping with a funky groove and the way Lewis has utilised the instruments, especially the percussions, gives the song a very upbeat and contemporary feel — a rarity in Indian music. Although, the melody failed to offer anything new, the use of live instruments strengthened the song.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Anwar
    Jul 13, 2011 - 12:55AM

    This show blows…saw one episode, and I’ll make sure I never watch one again.


  • Khalid Ahmed
    Jul 13, 2011 - 4:00AM

    Seriously, why are Pakistanis so much obsessed with Coke Studio @ MTV?

    First of all, Pakistanis don’t need
    to feel insecure since Coke Studio
    is not a Pakistani creation to
    begin with. It’s an international
    franchise owned by Coca Cola
    whose very first version appeared
    in Brazil.
    Secondly, attempt to make Coke Studio
    an India-Pakistan war is idiotic
    since Coke Studio’s success/failure is
    ultimately Coca Cola’s headache. Stop being jingoistic and think practically.

  • Hassan Farooqi
    Jul 13, 2011 - 5:41PM

    There is already a Bollywood and hence CS will not make waves there. Pakistan does not have a Bollywood, and Coke Studio there is creating sensations because it is reviving the dying Sufi and Folk musics with a western fusion to make it popular to new audiences. Those who have heard Ali Zafar sing Yar Dadi, Saein Zahoor sing Aik Alif, and Arif Lohar sing Mirza Sahiban would know what I mean.Recommend

  • Baloch
    Jul 13, 2011 - 6:35PM

    Mr. Khalid, I think its you who took this as Indo Pak war otherwie writer is 100% right.

    In India people are more oriented towards Filmi music but the Coke Studio platform is different style and taste

    Its Rohail Hayat who brought cultures and languages together.

    In India everybody all their media is comparing their show with Pakistani Coke Studio, so whats wrong with this article


  • saeed
    Jul 14, 2011 - 12:03AM

    @Khalid Can you give a one single link or one official video of coke studio brazil..its all bluffing there was nothing like coke studio brazil…kindly if some one can find any video from coke studio brazil or if you can find any website of it or any single piece of it other then the news articles to proove it…


  • SK
    Jul 15, 2011 - 5:05AM

    @saeed Search for Estúdio Coca-Cola and you’ll find everything…


  • Nworb
    Jul 21, 2011 - 9:44AM

    I don’t think the problem with indian coke studio is the public being used to bollywood music. If that was the case then people wouldn’t like the pakistani coke music. I think the problem is the music and producers themselves. They are missing the point. Leslie Lewis was a bad choice to go with first of all. Can anyone remember any memorable song by him at all? I can’t. He is a confused producer. A lot of his songs are english based. He tries to be something he is not and therefore does not understand the spirit of music that made the pakistani version a success.

    Unfortunately majority of the shows in india are entertainment or popularity contests now. Saregamapa is the best musical show in india and churns out very talented singers but it has also gone down the public voting row. They need to focus on music and talent and let acclaimed fair judges decide not the public. Thankfully the caliber of contestants in that show has not gone down but they did lose out on very talented singers due to letting the public vote. Pakistani coke studio eliminated the audience system to improve the acoustics and atmosphere. We need to learn from that and that doesn’t only go for music but the rest of the entertainment industry. We are doing very well technologically(sound, lighting, picturization) but the quality( stories, lyrics, music) are going down hill. We better get a hold on it before we completely lose ourselves

    Now don’t get me wrong I don’t love everything that pakistani Coke studio does. A lot of their stuff is wayyyyy too rockerish from a by gone rock era. However they have a few songs(mostly sufi ones) that I absolutely love to listen to again and again. Maybe over time indian version will give some memorable songs since it just started too.

    Another problem with the indian version is that the we have a very diverse country with many languages,cultures and music. It is hard for people to identify and feel touched by something they don’t understand. They need to research and find sounds (maybe even lyrics) that will reach into the hearts of majority of the public despite the understanding barriers because there are jewels buried there in every culture. Lot of the stuff in the pakistani version is in urdu (they have a few in pashto and other languages) which most of india can understand and also punjabi which has some words similar in hindi so the feel of the song is transferred easily and there is a soul in these songs. The lyrics have deep meanings.

    Indian version needs a new producer that is in tune with his country. If the produceers think we don’t like it cuz we looovvveee bollywood stuff, boy are they wrong. That means they don’t even know what their audience wants. They need to focus on their roots, lyrics, music. If you can’t write deep lyrics but can sing very well, don’t try, let someone else write and you sing. If you can’t sing but your music and lyrics have soul, write and let someone else do the singing. Don’t try to be something your not and give talented people a chance. There is a lot of talent in india that should be given a chance rather than letting old goats mehhhh away.


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